Last year the Raiders running game was a write off. Trying to employ a zone running scheme the Raiders lost the production of Darren McFadden in his worst ever season in the NFL. Mike Goodson tried to fill DMC’s shoes, but in the end nothing could fix the hard luck of the Raiders in 2012, and it was no different for the running backs.
McFadden only played in 12 games last season, once again creating questions about his ability to stay durable and productive over an entire NFL season. The Arkansas star who is filled with potential, has still yet to compile a “wow” season in the NFL. To combat this going into a contract year for McFadden, Latavius Murray and free agent running back Rashad Jennings to try to shoulder the load in an effort to ensure that McFadden can play all 16 regular season games and hopefully playoffs at full potential.
The change in personnel is as follows:
2012: Darren McFadden, Mike Goodson, Jeremy Stewart, Taiwan Jones
2013: Darren McFadden, Rashad Jennings, Latavius Murray, Jeremy Stewart, Deonte Williams
Darren McFadden has headed into the season as the Raiders star back the past five seasons and will once again be the man for the Silver and Black headed into 2013, a contract year for the young McFadden who has yet to break though into the potential many see in him. Durability has been more or less what has been keeping him back as the now five year vet has never managed to play the full 16 regular season games. It is no coincidence that of those five seasons, he has only had one in which he put up big numbers. That season had two things in common for McFadden 1) He played the majority of the season (13) 2) they ran the power blocking scheme instead of trying to be forced into a zone blocking system.
The difference between zone McFadden and power blocking McFadden is clear. He has averaged 3.6 yards per carry in his career working in the zone blocking scheme and 5.3 yards per carry in the power blocking scheme. He may be the same person but he is a different running back in the power blocking scheme so 2013 bodes well for the Raiders running game.
Help in depth will also help McFadden in 2013. Rashad Jennings and Latavius Murray will be an upgrade over Mike Goodson, who was a zone specialist who managed to rack up 6.3 yards per carry as DMC’s main running mate. While Goodson did produce as a number two in the backfield, the addition of Jennings and rookie Latavius Murray should allow McFadden to shoulder the load of the Raiders offense much easier and hopefully allow him to make it through the full 16 games.
If McFadden can stay healthy, which is a big if, the Raiders offense could be much better than many project this season. With the addition of Jennings, it could be even greater if there are no injuries.
Replacing Goodson as the primary back will be Rashad Jennings who was a steady back behind Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville. Early in his career he was shaping up to be a player in free agency once his contract was up and would be due to be a starter for some team. Last season was a setback with injuries so he was able to be swooped up by the Raiders for one season on to try and build up his value again.
The addition of Jennings by Reggie McKenzie in addition to the change back to a power blocking scheme under Greg Olsen gives the Raiders offense two major improvements as they have the chance to have a rejuvenated Jennings, just three years removed from 459 yards as Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup, give the Raiders a potent one two punch at running back.
Selected in the sixth round out of the University of Central Floriday Latavius Murray will be trying to battle to be the first guy off the bench to spell Darren McFadden. Murray, a first team All-Conference USA running back in his senior season, Murray rushed for 1106 yards last season. In addition to reaching 1,000 yards Murray rushed for 15 touchdowns and received for 231 yards and four touchdowns. Dennis Allen will be hoping that the rookie will be able to adjust from a small conference in college to the NFL immediately.
Similar to Jennings and McFadden in body type and running style, Murray could jump right in should the two injury prone veterans go down this season. With the checkered durability records of Jennings and McFadden, there is a real possibility that we will be seeing Murray get a lot of touches in his rookie season and his similarities to Jennings and McFadden should mean that there is no adjustment period to a different running style.
At the end of the day the Raiders have three running backs who are going to be motivated and hungry to get their careers on track from day one of training camp with McFadden and Jennings both in contract years and Murray trying to make an impression as a rookie. Bringing back the power blocking scheme and adding two bigger, upright runners is a step in the right direction as it has been clear that McFadden is not a zone rusher and he is currently the Raiders best offensive player.
Expect the running game to be a lot better in 2013 than it was in 2012. With fullback Marcel Reece getting to reign havoc in a more featured role at fullback and the lack of a deep ball threat at quarterback, Greg Olsen is going to have to gameplan a way for the Raiders to chew up yardage. Having three healthy backs would go a long way in making that mission realistic. There are a lot of questions heading into training camp, but a motivated Darren McFadden in a contract year should be just enough for the Raiders rushing attack to get a jolt of adrenaline back into the offense this season.